Football Features

How Aston villa replaced their top 10 big money sales from Grealish to a Man Utd treble winner

By J Smith

Published: 18:43, 31 August 2021

Although they lost their prodigal son, Aston Villa are currently enjoying a £100m windfall this summer following the sale of Jack Grealish.

After 213 appearances, 32 goals and 43 assists, and a Championship Playoff win, Grealish has swapped Villa Park for Premier League champions Manchester City.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Aston Villa have had to surrender their most coveted talents to ‘bigger clubs’. But how has that gone down for them over the years? Let’s take a look at their 10 most expensive departures.

10. Sold: Fabian Delph (£8m) | Signed: Jordan Veretout (£7m)

Although Idrissa Gana Gueye was the standout arrival for Aston Villa in 2015, Jordan Veretout was the man signed to replace Fabian Delph, who left for Manchester City.

That move from Delph enraged the Villa fanbase, but the midfielder went on to lift two Premier League titles with City, playing as a utility man and often filling in at left-back, while he has 20 caps for England at the time of writing.

Veretout, meanwhile, struggled to adjust to English football and was part of the Villa squad that was relegated in 2016. Even so, they did recoup most of the money they paid for him when the Frenchman moved to Fiorentina in July 2017. Veretout has looked much more comfortable in Italy.

9. Sold: Ugo Ehiogu (£8m) | Signed: Alpay Özalan (£5.6m)

The £8m that Middlesbrough paid to Aston Villa for Ugo Ehiogu was a huge amount of money for a centre-back in 2000 but it’s safe to say they got the better end of the deal.

While Ehiogu played 151 times for Boro, helping them lift the 2004 League Cup, his replacement at Villa Alpay Özalan was a complete disaster. Sure, he put in plenty of excellent performances for Turkey but at club level, the defender was just unable to adjust to Premier League life.

To make matters worse, Özalan suffered from injuries during his time at Villa, while he held a finger to his mouth in front of his own fans after scoring against Charlton, having previously been jeered by the Villa faithful. An action that didn’t go down too well.

The final straw was when Özalan goaded David Beckham following a penalty miss in a match between Turkey and England in 2003, making him immensely unpopular on these shores. His contract was eventually terminated.

8. Sold: Jordan Amavi (£9m) | Signed: Matt Target (£11.5m)

Following Jordan Amavi’s departure to Marseille in 2018. Aston Villa initially used Wales international Neil Taylor to fill the breach at left-back. But a year later, they paid over £11m to bring England youth international Matt Targett from Southampton. Since then, the 25-year-old has never looked back.

Weighing the two fees up, Villa paid just £2.5m for Targett and for that money, the left-back has turned out 73 times, notching two goals and four assists during that time. Although he hasn’t managed to break into Gareth Southgate’s England set-up, Targett is one of the most reliable left-backs in the Premier League and a big reason why Villa have managed to re-find stability in the top-flight.

7. Sold: Gareth Barry (£12m) | Signed: Fabian Delph (£6m)

Gareth Barry was a stalwart during his time with Villa, playing 441 times for the club, scoring 52 times and earning the captain’s armband along the way. After years of being linked with Liverpool, the England international finally joined Man City for £12m in 2009, going on to win Premier League and FA Cup titles.

Delph was Barry’s successor and while he was undoubtedly excellent on the pitch during his 134 appearances for the club, his own departure to Man City left a much more bitter taste, as mentioned.

6. Sold: Dwight Yorke (£12.6m) | Signed: Dion Dublin (£5.75m)

It’s surprisingly rare in football that a series of transfers can suit all parties involved but that’s what happened in 1998 when Man Utd signed Dwight Yorke for a then-club-record £12.6m.

Yorke was able to win six trophies with the Red Devils, including a historic treble in 1999, and cement his place in Man Utd folklore with his partnership alongside Andy Cole, even if it was short-lived.

And Yorke’s replacement, Dion Dublin, played 186 times for the club and scored 57 goals, all for less than half the fee Villa received for their prized asset. And yes, that’s the same Dion Dublin who now presents BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer, showing the stairs going up to the bedrooms.

5. Sold: Ashley Young (£17m) | Signed: Charles N’Zogbia (£9.5m)

While Ashley Young enjoyed immense success following his £17m departure from Aston Villa in 2011, his replacement, Charles N’Zogbia, did not. The Frenchman cost £9.5m from Wigan Athletic so, from a financial standpoint, a handsome profit was made. But on the pitch, N’Zogbia managed just five goals and 17 assists in 93 appearances while an Achilles injury serious hampered his ability to repay that fee.

Going full circle after winning titles with Man Utd and Inter Milan — as well as reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals with England — Young is now back at Villa, though he’s now a full-back.

4. Sold: Stewart Downing (£20m)

The period between 2009 and 2011 was tough for Villa fans to take, with so many of their biggest talents leaving the club for Premier League rivals.

Stewart Downing was another of those departures, joining Liverpool for £20m in 2011. Although he was allowed to leave alongside Young, only N’Zogbia was brought in to fill the gaps on the wings, while academy product Marc Albrighton was further blooded into the first team.

3. Sold: James Milner (£26m) | Signed: Stephen Ireland (£8m)

Given how many positions James Milner played in, you could probably name every single player Aston Villa signed in 2010 as his replacement. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to go with the guy who came the other way in that deal: Stephen Ireland.

Where Milner went on to achieve immense success with Man City and, more recently, Liverpool, Ireland’s career declined, with the Republic of Ireland international registering just one goal and seven assists in 58 appearances. Although he did enough to win the Supporters’ Player of the Season award in 2012, Ireland’s most redeeming factor at Villa is arguably the fact he cost £18m less than what City paid for Milner.

2. Sold: Christian Benteke (£32.5m) | Signed: Jordan Ayew (£12m)

At the time, the £32.5m sale of Chrisitan Benteke to Liverpool felt like a disaster for Villa given the Belgian had just netted 13 goals in 29 Premier League appearances the season prior. And, indeed, £12m replacement Jordan Ayew managed only seven Premier League goals the following campaign as the Villans were relegated to the Championship.

But then again, since leaving Villa, Benteke has scored just 40 goals in 169 Premier League appearances, while the club still made over £20m profit between the two deals. Ayew has proven himself a capable top-flight player over the years and Villa’s problems during their relegation campaign were rooted far deeper than him.

1. Sold: Jack Grealish (£100m) | Signed: Leon Bailey (£28.8m), Emiliano Buendia (£34.6m), Danny Ings (£31.7m)

Villa haven’t wasted any time in spending the Grealish money and, indeed, most of the business was lined up before the England international even left the club.

On the wings, Leon Bailey will take up Grealish’s left flank role, but it’s Emiliano Buendia on the other side who is arguably more stylistically similar. Both of them will be tasked with feeding Danny Ings, who scored 46 goals in 100 appearances across all competitions for Southampton and might well turn out to be a great piece of business for Villa, especially as he’s already off the mark.

Can these three sustain Villa’s rise back up the English football hierarchy? Only time will tell.